Archeology is a constant search for answers. Information about our ancestors is usually collected piece by piece, which means that we rarely get a complete picture of a particular person, civilization or event.
New artifacts are found every day, but this does not mean that the collective knowledge of our past is steadily growing. Some discoveries are so bizarre, mysterious and unique that they raise even more questions instead of providing the right answers.
Carvings found in the Lepenski Vir parking lot
We will start with the carvings that were discovered in Serbia at the Lepenski Vir Mesolithic site. It represents one of the earliest permanent settlements on the continent and provides valuable information about the oldest people in Europe, the Iron Gate culture.
We still know little about this ancient civilization that once occupied the region surrounding the Iron Gate of the Danube River. Perhaps the most striking example is the eerie sculptures found at the Lepenski Vir site: their purpose and appearance still baffle scientists.
The sculptures are estimated to be around 8,000 years old. Some depict simple geometric patterns, while others depict human faces, which can seem rather ominous at first glance. They have large, protruding eyes and an open mouth with the corners down; This facial expression is likely to indicate fear or sadness.
They were carved from quartz sandstone, and about a hundred of them have been discovered since excavations began at the Lepenski Vir site in the 1960s. Some of the carvings look rather odd; archaeologists admit the idea that in fact they are not depicting people, but fish. Sculptures continue to be a unique discovery and archaeological mystery that scientists have not yet been able to unravel.
This structure is known by various names: the Wheel of Spirits, Rujm el-Hiri (in Arabic), Gilgal Refaim (in Hebrew) or the Golan Stonehenge. Be that as it may, one thing remains undeniable: this is the most mysterious ancient structure found in the Middle East.
Rujm El-Hiri is a giant megalith about 5,000 years old, located in the Golan Heights in the Levant. It is quite understandable why it deserves a comparison with Stonehenge, but unlike its English counterpart, Rujm El-Hiri does not consist of huge stone slabs, but of small piles of basalt rocks, which together weigh more than 40,000 tons.
They are divided into five concentric circles, the largest of which is over 150 meters in diameter. In the center is a 4.5 meter high pyramid that was once a grave before it was plundered by grave robbers.
The site was first explored in the late 1960s. Since then, archaeologists have scrutinized it, but few answers have been received. We do not know who built it and for what purpose. What could be done here: religious ceremonies or astronomical observations? Who was buried in the center of such a structure? It is unlikely that we will find out about this in the near future.
The grave of the porpoise
In 2017, archaeologists began excavating the tiny island of Chapelle Dom-Hue off the coast of Guernsey. They tried to find a medieval church, but that mission soon faded into the background when they discovered something much stranger – the body of a porpoise, buried in a separate grave.
The sea animal was placed there almost 600 years ago, but most of all scientists were interested in the question: why? Then the island was inhabited only by monks, so at first everyone thought that it was some kind of religious rite – something new in Christianity. The monks ate porpoises, so it might have been leftovers from lunch, but that doesn’t answer the question of why they bothered to dig a hole when they could have just thrown the remains into the sea, which was only a few meters away. After all, if that was exactly what they were doing with the remains, then archaeologists probably should have found many more graves.
Ultimately, the scientists concluded that the motive for this strange burial was simple and practical – food storage. They think that the monks butchered the porpoise and placed it in the ground (perhaps even brine) to preserve and eat later. For some reason, they forgot about it, which led 21st century archaeologists to a standstill. This is the most plausible version, but even the scientist who put forward it admits that it will probably never be definitively recognized as true or false, given that there is practically nothing left of Chapelle-Dom-Hue.
Singapore’s modern history began in 1819, when it was founded as a trading post by Sir Stamford Raffles, and a few years later became a British colony. However, there are stories, texts, maps and legends that suggest that previous settlements flourished in the area centuries before western colonization. However, historical evidence of their existence is difficult to find, so an accurate account of the history of pre-colonial Singapore is unlikely to be obtained.
However, there is one curious artifact called the “Singapore Stone”. It is housed in the National Museum of Singapore and is a piece of sandstone that was once part of a huge monolith three meters high and wide. It dates from the period between the 10th and 14th centuries. It turns out that he stood for hundreds of years at the mouth of the Singapore River. According to legend, he was thrown there by a legendary strongman named Badang. But most importantly, the surface of the slab was covered with inscriptions that allegedly contained the history of Singapore.
Unfortunately, we will never know about her. The monolith was destroyed in 1843 when the British blew it up to widen the mouth of the river and make way for a fort. What happened to the rest of its parts is unknown, but the only surviving fragment is the Singapore stone, which is now kept in the museum and is not going to so easily say goodbye to its secrets.
Skull helmets found in Salango
The most disturbing find on this list came from Salango (an excavation site on the central coast of Ecuador) last year. During the excavation of the remains of the ancient culture of Guanal, archaeologists have discovered 11 burials dating back to about 100 BC. Of the eleven children, two were babies: one was about one and a half years old, and the other was between 6 and 9 months old. Notable were their gloomy and unusual headdresses. Both of their skulls were placed in two larger skulls belonging to the two older children.
Although burial practices can vary from culture to culture, researchers believe this is the first known example of the use of children’s skulls as funerary headdresses.
Once the scientists realized what they had discovered, one big question arose: why? And in truth, we still don’t have the slightest idea. Curiously, the remains of babies were found in a number of other graves, but none of them contained “helmets”: they were buried in a more traditional way.
Penny from Maine
There is little confusion about the origin of the Maine penny, also called the Goddard coin. Everyone knows what she is, as well as when and where she was found. The big mystery that has sparked a lot of controversy is how exactly she got there.
The Maine Penny is a Viking coin dating from the 11th century, during the reign of Olaf Kirre, King of Norway. It was found in 1956 by two amateur archaeologists who examined a dung heap on the coastal property of a man named Goddard, near an old Indian settlement called Naskig Point. The question was, what was she doing there?
The presence of a Viking coin in one of the Indian settlements in Maine suggests that at some point the paths of the two cultures crossed. But so far the only confirmed Viking site in North America is at the tip of Newfoundland, Canada. Thus, any discoveries will have a great impact on the history of both Europe and America.
Scientists are reluctant to accept the version associated with the coin, but they still try to find explanations for how it could have ended up there. Unless, of course, this is anybody’s joke. At this point, we were almost certain of the penny’s authenticity, but it could have been planted by Goddard or one of the archaeologists. This is a mystery that has haunted researchers for decades and is unlikely to be solved anytime soon.
Now let’s move on to the cursed artifacts. There are many objects and places in the world that are supposedly cursed; the most famous examples are the tombs of the pharaohs. However, we will focus on the mysterious gem.
It is known as the Delhi Purple Sapphire, although in truth it is actually an amethyst. Its exact origin is unknown, but until the mid-19th century it was kept in a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Indra. Then came the Indian Uprising of 1857, which caused not only great bloodshed, but also massive looting. Colonel Ferris of the Bengal cavalry stole the jewel and brought it with him to England.
In the years that followed, Ferris lost his health and fortune; the same thing happened with his son, who inherited an amethyst. In 1890, writer and Royal Society member Edward Heron-Allen took possession of this stone. Bad luck began to haunt him, like other people to whom he gave amethyst. Once a writer threw a stone into Regent’s Canal, but a few months later it was returned.
After that, he decided that the gem was “cursed and stained with blood,” so he placed it in a bank vault along with a letter containing the history of the amethyst. A few years after Heron-Allen’s death, his daughter deposited the stone with the Natural History Museum in London. Since then, no one else owned it.
Stone balls of Costa Rica
For 800 years Costa Rica was home to the pre-Columbian Dikis culture (between the 8th and 16th centuries). This civilization is now extinct, but it left behind a strange and mysterious legacy that later became the national symbol of Costa Rica.
We are talking, of course, about stone balls. Stone balls called petrospheres, to be precise, are made of a coarse igneous rock called gabbro. They vary greatly in size: some can fit in the hand, while others, the largest of them, reach more than two and a half meters in diameter and weigh over 15 tons.
Stone balls can be found in different parts of Costa Rica, as well as in museums around the world. They were buried for centuries under thick layers of sediment, which saved them from marauders; they were discovered in the 1930s when corporations began clearing land to make way for banana plantations.
Since then, the stone balls have been carefully studied, but so far researchers have not been able to draw any meaningful conclusions. They continue to remain a mystery, abandoned by an almost forgotten culture.
The Giant Codex is one of the largest surviving illustrated manuscripts in the world. It contains 620 pages 90 centimeters high, and the whole book weighs 88 kilograms. Moreover, all signs point to the fact that the manuscript was written by one person, a monk who lived in Bohemia in the 13th century – today it is part of the Czech Republic.
Yet this is not what sets the Giant Codex apart from the rest of the manuscripts and gives it a dark reputation. On page 290, its creator decided to draw a huge image of Satan, which is why the Giant Codex received its second name – “The Devil’s Bible”.
We don’t know why he did it. This, of course, was not standard practice at the time, and gave rise to the legend that the Giant Codex was created by the devil himself. The monk was punished by walled up in a room. He was told that he could be saved if he created a book that would contain all the knowledge of mankind in one night.
He set to work, but soon realized that the task was impossible, so he made another deal with Satan, selling his soul in exchange for a finished book. The devil fulfilled his end of the bargain, but included his image to remind everyone of the true author of the manuscript.
Egypt is one of the most famous civilizations of antiquity, which has been extensively studied for centuries. And yet, there are so many elements from that period that we don’t fully understand.
As a typical example, consider the Starving of Saqqara, a sculpture – presumably from the pre-dynastic era of Egypt – that is unlike any other. It depicts two figures (possibly a man and a woman) sitting opposite each other. They are naked and have large, oblong heads. The sculpture is made of limestone; it bears inscriptions, the language of which has not been established. It is called The Starving Sakkara, after an ancient burial site in Memphis, Egypt, but there is nothing to indicate that it was found there.
That is, perhaps, all that we can say about this. In the 1950s, it fell into the hands of Vincent Diniakopoulos, an antiques collector, who displayed it in his private gallery. Later, in 1999, his wife Olga donated the entire collection to Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. She stayed there for twenty years. Experts from all over the world usually come to the same conclusions: they have never seen anything like it, they do not know what the inscriptions say, and this is most likely either a unique piece of ancient art or a fake. Only time will tell if we find out the truth.